Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Traditions

I am sitting in the Phoniex Airport Terminal D, Gate 1 charging my computer and listening to the automated messaging system pronounce names like Najeet Pradmindovic, and thinking about Christmas. Kate and I are on our way to spend Christmas with my family in Oregon and have spent the last couple of days having Christmas with her family. Kate's family has many more yearly traditions tied to the holidays and she has been a little sad as some of those are coming to an end. There will be no opening of PJ's on Christmas eve or nut in the pie to see who gets to play Santa. Looking ahead we think about when we have kids and what that will mean for Christmas with parents. We want to start our own traditions and build on the past we have both experienced but at the same time it is really hard to see some of those traditions we have grown up with end. Difficult more so for Kate then me but still difficult. For me Christmas has been family for sure but not tied to a place, or to yearly traditions. We might give gifts, we might not. Christmas could be in sunny Santa Barbara or rainy Clatskanie but the house has changed just about every year. I think because of that I much more ready to start my own traditions with Kate while she is just starting to mourn the loss of what was. I mean it is still the end of something that you have loved. No matter what family fights sprout up or embarrassing scenes are played out it is tradition. We will see what it is we make as a family but as that legacy is built it is OK to be sad for what is lost. We honor it with our sadness, we look back and say this was good, this was mine.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Some guys get up early to go hunting, others.....

My heart started to beat faster as we pulled into the parking lot. John told me to just be honest if the police came, the worst they could do is tell us to leave. He got out and had a look at the dumpster, well lit, tucked away, “This is a good one here.”

The frozen snow crunched under our feet as we lifted the hinged lid and peered inside. “Just rip open the bag, grab the blue cups, dump out everything you can, and throw them over here to pick up at the end.” Simple enough instructions, I set about the task at hand. Rustling plastic bags, the thump of my heart in my throat, and the light clunk of cup on frozen snow were the only sounds I heard.

4 cups equals a point, 32 cups equals a one-way flight, 64 cups yields a round-trip. The cups were starting to pile up as we riffled through the soggy bags of half eaten burgers and frozen chili. It was not as gross as I thought it was going to be. I guess 8 degrees outside has a way of muting any nasty smells.

Just when my heart started to slow and I got into a rhythm or rip-grab-empty-toss, a semi truck pulled up next to the restaurant. There was yelling and banging but it didn’t seem to be directed at us. Adrenaline rushed through my veins as I looked at John for my cue. He kept working seemingly unfazed so I did too, though much less believable in my effort. We bagged up the cups and walked out of the dumpster area back to our car without so much as a look from the men unloading the trucks. Once we pulled out of the parking lot I exhaled.

We went to 4 other restaurants that night, one had already been cleared of the greasy loot, another was emptied of all trash, but the other two filled a couple more bags for us. We started at 2 AM and John dropped me off at 4:30 AM tired but too excited to sleep. I had 3 hours of sleep before we left and an hour and a half after we were finished but I wasn’t too tired. I’ve had shorter nights before and with the baby coming there will be shorter nights to come.

We got about 150 cups on the night and had a good conversation or two about family, racism, faith, and the future. A great night of adventure with a side of frozen fries.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

17 weeks and counting.....

Some time around May 22, 2006 there will be a marked difference in the make-up of my immediate family. Kate is pregnant, 17 weeks along and doing well by all accounts. We had our third appointment last week, the first one I have gone to, and we heard a loud, steady heartbeat coming somewhere in the vicinity of Kate’s growing belly. In early January we will have an ultra-sound where we will hopefully learn the gender but in the mean while Kate is doing very good. Pregnancy agrees with her as she has looked so beautiful the past couple of weeks. More to come to be sure…..

Monday, December 19, 2005

There and back in 54 hours



Would you spend 22 hours driving in the span of a little over 2 days just so you could have breakfast with your Sister and Dinner with your Mom? The McGrails would and did this past weekend and I was fortunate to come along for the ride.

We left Cicero, Indiana at 4:30 Friday night and headed west to join up with Tom’s Brothers Tim and Dan and their families to give their Mother a special Christmas/Birthday present. This mother, Grandma Weezie, lives on the Western edge of Iowa in Sioux City some 676 miles away. We loaded the Van with blankets and presents, cranked up the heat and hit the road. It was a balmy 18 degrees when we left but the skies and the roads were clear. We made it to Aunt Barb’s (Kris’s Sister) house in Des Moines, IA a little before Midnight and I went straight to bed. Early morning coffee and cards were the faire as we chatted and laughed and planned the next leg of the trip. Barb made us breakfast and we were back on the road by 11 for the far shorter second leg.

After a quick 3 hour jaunt we were in the childhood home of Kate’s parents and therefore were treated to a tour of old houses, missing schools, and fuzzy memories. “This didn’t used to be here”, “so and so lived here” “no she lived over here”. It is a real joy to see where people came from and to watch their faces as they glance over houses that have shrunk with time. After the short trip down memory lane we pulled into Tom’s boyhood home and quickly unloaded the van and sat in the living room that time forgot to catch up.

It has been longer then anyone could remember since Dan, Tom and Tim had all been home together with the incredible woman that raised them after their Father had died. They have all been together at weddings and graduations but not Home, not with Mom, not together, not for a while. Seeing these three brothers together is like watching an elaborate dance of deference. Each is more proud of the other and they absolutely beam when telling the tales of how great the other is. “Tom is Vice President now” says Dan, “But Tim just got back from Germany where he resolved the safety feud” says Tom, “Oh but Dan, he has lost his sight and recovered it all the while still teaching kids” As the dance was winding down we passed out gifts and watched as Grandma Weezie opened her grass skirt with wide eyed bewilderment. Next she opened her lei and was even more confused. She modeled both and gave us an impromptu hula that had us all rolling on the floor. Finally she opened the ticket to Hawaii with eyes as wide as any 6 year old getting a new bike. “Oh wow, really?” she said as clutched the ticket to her chest. “There’s one more thing mom, is it OK if we all go?” A family reunion in Hawaii for the 80th birthday of a remarkable woman.

After Church the next morning we set back out on the road to make the trip in reverse. Sioux City to Des Moines, Des Moines to Cicero, a stop for lunch with Barb and Marv and a lot of mile markers passed. We made it back home Sunday night a little after 10 PM, weary but warmed to the soul by a wonderful trip.

Here’s the math:

22 hours of travel
17 hours of sleep
15 hours of visiting
54 hours total
1353 miles traveled


Not bad for a McGrail weekend

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Friday: Work and Charis

After the snow on Thursday a number of people didn’t make it into work on Friday morning. Apparently only the Cali boy could make his way through the treacherous streets and arrive at work early! Well because of all the people out I was asked to work late and ended up doing an 8 AM to 9 PM shift that was much busier then it should have been. With only myself and another co-worker taking the calls that usually 9 or 10 people would cover we were moving from issue to issue like Meet the Press on speed. While grabbing a bite to eat I got a call from my friend Charis and she said she was on her way from NC to MT and asked if she could stay with Kate and I for the night. With that Charis became the first guest that Kate and I have had stay in our house for the night. Earlier this year I was thinking about who would be the first and with promised trips from my parents, my brother, my aunt, my best friend I had the odds of Charis being the first right up there with Ron Artest getting the Nobel Peace Prize. Well look out Stockholm Ronnie is coming to town.

Thursday: Snow


As many of you already experienced or heard we had 7 inches of snow here in Indy this past Thursday. I left work at 4 PM to head 2 miles to the Castelton Mall to meet Kate and Kris for dinner. It had been snowing hard for about two hours at this point and Traffice was backed up heading in every direction. It took me a little less then two hours to drive those two miles and I saw about three accidents and one near miss. One car, a mini van like mine, thought he would be cute and drive in the middle turn lane on the left and move up in line. He tried to pull back in front of me but that was not going to happen. He waved at me, I waved back, he started to pull in, I shook my head no, he put up his arms, I bumped his car and smiled that loving “I will freaking ram your car back into the snow bank before I let you in” look and he backed up. Later on my trip another car tried to speeding up on the left turn lane only to find he could not stop as quickly in the building snow. He slid into on coming traffic and narrowly missed two cars before stopping in the ditch on the other side of the road. All I could do was shake my head and pray that people would not be stupid around me. After dinner Kate and I made our way home and by the morning the major roads had been cleared enough for me to make it to work just fine.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Welcome to our home!


Kate and I have a couple of new guests living in our house and they are both named Art, help me welcome the first one
from the brushes of Kyle Ragsdale

Monday, December 05, 2005

"If you can't spot the sucker within 20 minutes of sitting at the table then the sucker is you"

This past Saturday night after work I played poker with a couple guys in the neighborhood. 4 guys, $20 to start, nickel, dime, quarter chips, nickel ante, dealer calls game. Simple enough math even for me. Somehow I stumbled the one block back home over icy sidewalks with nary a dime in my pocket. How did this happen?

Of the other 3 guys playing one was an OK player and the other two needed the games explained to them repeatedly. One had a chart in front of him listing the hands which anyone who has lost to Kendra knows is a particularly stinging beat. Things started off smooth with a couple of games of 5 card stud. Small bets and hands of two pair taking the first pots. The chatter was typical guys playing cards with no women around and therefore can not be repeated in this forum. I won a pot or two early and felt like I had an early read on the players at the table. Then I tried to be cute by seeing if I could bluff the guys by not taking any cards in a game of 5 card draw. It worked on two but the other guy made his flush to the ace and so I got unlucky. After that I kept winning small pots and losing the big ones, always a bad scenario. You feel like your doing well but your stack is shrinking like the rain forests.

While we are playing we are also enjoying some tasty mixture of tonic and vodka. I’m not sure what these are called but they agreed with me tremendously. After 2 or 3 of these adult beverages and a particularly bad beat in 7 card stud when I my full house was trumped by one that was a bit fuller I started to notice the alcohol becoming acquainted with my blood stream. The embraced like old friends and immediately started dancing through my body in an effort to see as much as they could before the night was over. After a couple more hands and enumerable inappropriate jokes there was introduced to our table a peach beverage with Chinese writing on it. Had I known that this bottle was to be my undoing that night I would have stayed away, but hind sight is always 20/20 and fore sight was in the low hundreds for me that night. I had a shot of the smooth peach beverage and then lost the rest of my money in 3 successive hands. I was then given a bigger portion of the peach beverage as consolation as well as a couple dollars in chips to play out the night with.

To add insult to injury the host then brought out his collection of Jones Soda Holiday pack and we took a shot of everything from Turkey and Gravy to Pecan Pie. Seemed like a fine idea at the time but again looking back that was pretty gross. At about 2:30 we decided to count up the money and call it a night. I had turned the couple of bucks into $16 but gave it back to the guy who fronted me. I grabbed my coat and found me hat, hit the door in seconds flat and made my way stumbling and sliding across a sheet of ice on the sidewalk. I crossed the street to my side and then zig zagged the half block to stop sign and then half more to my house. I didn’t fall once, a point I only make because of the sheer miracle of it. Came into the house to meet an angry Kate and spent the rest of the night in the bathroom as my body had a disagreement with the alcohol and so everyone had to leave.

Not a good night, not good at all.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Feels like its cold, that what it feels like

I am being introduced to a new weather term here that I was previously unfamiliar with in Sunny Southern California. The weather report has a current temp followed by a feels like temp. Yesterday morning it said 21* feels like 9*. Right now it is 30* feels like 20*. There are two things that I enjoy about this new math. First the current temp means nothing to me, only the feels like temp. What do I care what is really happening, I am only concerned with it feels like. How very relative it all is huh? The other thing that is funny to me is that after a certain point the numbers don't mean anything to me any more. Really once we get into the teens there isn't any difference between 19 and 3 for me, it is just really really cold outside and I want to go inside by a fire and have a hot chocolate with a little splash of Bailey's in it.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Beautiful Mind

It is quite possible my beautiful wife is in the early stages of losing her mind. I haven’t seen the research lately but I think 23 is still a little early for all this but the evidence is building up as it relates to coffee. First let me point out two things for you: 1. Kate is very intelligent and learns rather quickly. 2. Kate has worked at a coffee house and is quite adept at mixing mochas and frothing latt├ęs.

Right then, a couple of weeks ago Kate got up with me, at what Robin so lovingly calls the crack of butt, and told me that she would make the coffee while I jumped in to the shower. I confess that it was early and I was tired so it was more of a step then a jump but cleanliness was achieved so we will let that one slide. Once I dried and dressed I poured myself a cup of cold coffee. Cold? Why is the coffee cold Kate? Did you clean the old coffee out of the pot before making the fresh stuff? No worries, I downed my cool cup a’ joe and was out the door.

Last week Kate was again getting up with me but this time she made sure to clean the pot of old cold coffee, she cleaned the filter of the dry used grounds, and she filled the maker with crisp clear water and set the pot to brewing. After my shower and quick bowl of Chex I made my way to the pot with paper in hand and browsed the box scores while pouring the morning elixir into my travel mug. The thing about fresh coffee is that permeating aroma that flirts with your nose and coaxes you to drink. There was no coaxing aroma. I also love the chocolate brown color that reflects a little on the top as you pour the cream in and stir like an artist muting his palette. What looked back at me was more of a clear greenish brown that evokes no sense of art and aroma. Kate did you put coffee grounds into the pot this morning? Storming back to bed Kate told me to make my own damn coffee then!

It’s a good thing she’s beautiful, that’s all I can say.

(I can’t tell you how much trouble I am going to get in for this post)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bad Words

When I was in Junior high I was infamous for my foul mouth. I made my science teacher, Mr. Long, cry once because of my language and another time because I put Mercury in the fish tank. (Not the nicest kid I know) I'm sure my foul mouth like many other things came mostly from my Mom but I had refined the art of the F word and made it something all my own. Then I learned about Jesus and how he doesn't want you to talk that way and I reformed my foul mouth for a good six years. Nary a 'Hell' or 'Damn' escaped my lips let a lone an F bomb, or an Al Levy as I call them now. Slowly there started to creep some 'mild language for color' as Kate called it in a letter to an old friend, nothing that would make a sailor blush or anything but gateway words that could lead to medium or even spicy language down the road if left unchecked.

I write all of this because lately I have been listening to the language I use more and more. I have a mental block when it comes to the Al Levys but there is still a whole palette of Colorful words that I don't remember starting to use again. Don't get me wrong I don't have any moral issues with profanity this is merely a personal study of my own language patterns. I think I have grasped on to some Post-Modern, hip, Christian, picture of the guy that knows his C.S. Lewis as much as he does his John Irving and can rattle off a line or two of either as the situation dictates. I find my self slipping in a curse word or two in conversations to some how show that I am not one of those fundamentalist that we all quietly fear, but my words are grating on me more and more as they escape my lips to breath on their own.

Along with the bad language my mother taught me the love of good words. She would often highlight great words used in letters or articles and email me some of the better ones she had found through out the day. Her mother before her instilled a love of words as she fought against prejudices and spoke with an authority and vocabulary that belied her education, or lack there of. Now I have my Beautiful, and her love of words, in my life and I am often passing my book over to her to find out what a particular word means. When I read her writing I am amazed at how she makes words dance in and out of each other with every turn of the phrase and turn of the page. When I was young I changed my vocabulary because I thought thats what Jesus wanted me to do. Now I know that Jesus is more concerned with my heart and my hands then he is with my language (and yes I know about Mat 12:34). Now I want to change my language because I want to be more like Debbie and Faye and Kate. I want my words to dance.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Walking the Line

Kate and I went out to dinner and a movie last night and after our steaks we saw the new Johnny Cash Biopic "Walking the Line" I am not a big Johnny Cash fan and I didn't know his story that well but the movie was phenomenal. From the chatter leaving the theatre even the hardcore Cash fans left happy. The music in the movie is another character that adds to the story in a way that Cameron Crowe hoped the music in Elizabeth town would but failed. Phoniex and Witherspoon do a great job as Cash and Carter and you are at times angry with them, hurting with them, but always oddly rooting for them. Go out and see this film, it is a great story, told well, with great acting, another classic T Bone Burnet sound track, and great themes to sit around and discuss with friends and strangers alike.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

So how about this weather

It was 74* last week and it is snowing today. We have had thunder storms, torrential down pours, tornadoes and snow flurries all in the last week. Just another week in middle america.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Holidays are coming, the holidays are coming!

We are mere weeks away from the start of holiday mayhem and the past couple of weekends at home have felt like the calm before the storm. Kate will soon be done with the finance world and she has grand plans for decorating, entertaining, gift giving, and spreading holiday cheer. A couple of the ladies in the neighborhood are already competing for Kate's time as a baby sitter as well. Though her job is finishing her work is far from done. Kate wants to hang branches from the ceiling with lights and ornaments in some fashion or another. This sounds lovely and all but mostly it sounds hard. The plaster on our ceiling seems to have a tenuous hold at best as it is, adding branches might not be the most structurally sound decsion. I'm not sure what else she has in mind but what ever it is will mean a good deal of work for me. Truth be told I could use a good deal of work. I have been lazy lately and have lost a bit of that girlish figure that first won Kate's heart.

Pre-New Year's Resolution: Lose the belly and the bottom, find the muscles if I've got'um

So far in our lengthy marriage( 1 year, 1 month, 4 days) Kate has not been one for baking but I feel like this is the year she finds her internal Betty Crocker. I'm picturing coming home to the fragrant aroma of spiced cider and sugar cookies as Dean Martin croons how cold it is outside. We will see how close this is to reality.

Thanksgiving is in Iowa again this year while Christmas is in Oregon. Kate and I will be heading to the North West to meet up with the Rohl clan on the beautiful banks of the Columbia. Christmas with my family comes with some great traditions: Mom's incredible cooking, Mark's post basketball pouting as he realizes he is still number three in the family, My dad drinking himself into a stupor asking neighbors if they have seen his damn reindeer, Naughty Christmas carol sung around the fire, the annual lighting of the Christmas tree because Mark takes "How bout we light that tree" literal. Ah traditions! Every family has them.

What are some of your family holiday traditions?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

One More casualty in the war of the Kitchen

Last night when heading to the bathroom before bed I noticed something scurrying on the counter. Kate was a couple steps behind as our religion dictates and I stopped her from coming in the kitchen. She has told me time and time again that she does not want to see or know what happens to these mice. I stopped the little guy from his chosen escape route and forced him into a corner under some covering. While he hid there plotting his next move I gathered my arsenal of rodent ridders. Three sticky traps set up on one side of the counter so that anything that crossed that way would stick around for a while and a wooden spoon to direct the rascally rodent to the proper road. When I lifted the covering my witty nemesis ducked under it towards me and my wooden spoon and away from the traps. I lunged to the far left to keep him on the counter and he hid in the curtain above the sink. Well played my little enemy but you are just putting off the inevitable. I shook out the curtain into the sink and the mouse dropped to the bottom. I think he knew the jig was up because he started squeaking that high pitched squeal that sounds vaguely like "Please don't kill me James! Please, I promise I won't come back James, I promise." You are a liar and a felon and you will meet your maker this night my friend I told him and I grabbed a sticky trap. There were a number of dishes in the sink so I slowly pulled them out and then paced the trap in the middle of the sink. The mouse made a run for the right and was met with a wooden spoon to his tiny noggin that sent him back across the middle of the sink, across the middle of the trap. The battle was mine! A worthy advesery I must say but this was my night for victory.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Kitchen really is the heart of the home

I really think our refridgerator is killing us. I know I brought this up before but it is getting worse. The thing is now starting to violently vibrate late at night. I am worried that Rick Moranis is going to show up and try to release some sort demon from it.

The smell of the Freon leak is now combined with two dead mice that were stuck to one of my sticky traps under a book shelf that has been re-christened as a kitchen storage cabinet. I found the mice yesterday after the tell tale smell that I have become way to acquainted with a SMBC got to powerful to ignore. That horrible smell is also added to the dog smell as Molly has decided that the kitchen is her new bedroom.

The kitchen is also home to the ever decreasing pile of laundry since the washing machine is there as well. Kate is nearly finished with her ceremonial cleaning of every stich of clothing after the bungling burglar rifled through her unmentionables.

So to summarize: piles of laundry + 2 day dead mice smell + Freon leak from fridge + stinky dog + Still settling dust from the floors + possessed fridge = one scary, stinky, seriously dirty kitchen!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Weekends

No TV for a week, how did that work out. Turns out I didn't really miss anything since all the shows I like were having re-runs. I wanted to make a statement to myself that I am not controlled by the plot lines of various shows that may be on. That my plans do not have to be calculated based on what shocking new thing will be revealed next week on a super special episode of fill-in-the-blank show. The thing is I choose to make this statement to myself on the very week where no new shocking things are revealed. So the moral of the story, as always: I am an idiot!

p.s. and I need TiVo.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

It’s not the loss of property that hurts, it’s the loss of peace

It was mildly strange that the back door was unlocked and even more that the door to the kitchen was. Kate will sometimes leave the porch door open while locking the kitchen door so someone can get to the porch but not in the house. Both doors were unlocked when I got home yesterday. When I came into the kitchen I could see through the house to the front door and it was wide open with Molly sitting on the front porch looking out the screen door. I called for Kate knowing that she wasn’t off work yet but what other explanations could there be?

The window on the front door was plexi-glass and broken out of its frame. All of the drawers to all of our dressers, desks, and cabinets were opened and ransacked. There were clothes all over the floor in both bedrooms, a broken lamp in the living room, and the door to the upstairs and other closets were all open. Someone had broken in to our house and gone through everything. I looked to see what was missing. TV still there, iPod sitting on my desk, DVDs still in the pulled out drawer, jewelry dumped on the dresser but still there. The only thing missing was the change on my dresser inside a Boris Yeltsin (he was a democratic president so he could be trusted with the change, or so I thought) nesting doll I bought in Kiev. Somebody broke our door, ransacked our house and made off with less then $10 worth of pennies, nickels, and quarters.

I went next door to talk to Ronnie to see if he saw anything. “Are you kidding me, if I saw someone in your house they would still be there on the floor.” We went across the street to talk to the gnomes and junior had seen someone. Black hoodie, white gloves. Over and over junior told us about the sweatshirt and the gloves. His brother started to get mad at him for not doing something earlier and I have to admit that was my first reaction as well. But I didn’t say anything and as junior described the guy for the 30th time I realized he was trying to atone in the only way he knew how. My neighbors took it personally. It was not their house but they felt like it happened on their watch. Ron interrogated the other neighbors and junior waited for the police to tell them about the black sweatshirt and white gloves.

The police officer arrived and got the description from junior. He looked at the door and asked if anything was missing. Just the change. He came inside and said “Wow, Nice floors” and asked if we wanted the place dusted for prints. No sense in it if junior’s black hoodie, white gloves guy was the one. Not much he could do and we knew that. He thanked us for moving into the neighborhood, encouraged us that it was getting better and better and to stick with it, and then went on his way.

I wanted to fight someone, I pictured bats hitting legs and fists hitting faces but knew that solved nothing. The person that did this was looking for fast cash for a quick score. Most likely a drug addict that needed a fix now. Why leave the iPod or other stuff and only take the change? The person that did this is exactly the person I want to reach out to, to pray for, to offer a better life. The person that did this is part of the reason we moved to this neighborhood. Jesus give me your heart for this person. Jesus let me see this person as you see them. Jesus bless them.

Kate and I set about moving on and that meant cleaning. We went into the bedroom and saw all of Kate’s clothes spread around the room. “They got in my F*&%ing underwear!” I don’t think I have ever heard my wife drop an F-bomb but it was warranted. It didn’t seem out of place. Kate washed every stitch of clothing she had and I cleaned the kitchen. Kate cleaned the bathroom and made dinner and cleaned the dining room and living room. When you feel violated you have to clean. There is a film on your house and you need to scrub it off. That’s the way it feels anyway, truth be told there is a film on you and scrubbing every thing else seems to be the best way to deal with it.

Ron and Suzie came over with our alley neighbor’s Mike and Moses. Ron wanted to talk some more, to apologize for letting us down. He wanted to look in our eyes and find the forgiveness that he couldn’t convince himself of. Mike brought a jar of coins collected from the people in the neighborhood when they heard what happened to us. Sometimes “we care” or “you matter to us” or “you are not alone here” sounds an awful lot like coins clinking on the side of a jar.

It’s not the loss of property that hurts, it’s the loss of peace. Lord grant us your peace

Lead me Oh lead me into your arms
I will be safe in the shadow of your wing
Lead me Oh lead me into your arms
I will be safe in Almighty.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Highways and biways


Life seems to pass by much like scenery on a road trip. At times you are watching it, enjoying the beauty and lost in the transitions. Other times you are lost in your thoughts and parsing through worries only to come back and see that you have driven 20 miles and can't remember what you have passed. There is the quiet panic of lights ran or animals hit until you realize that none of that happened, you definitly would have come too for that. I feel like a couple of weeks have passed by without notice while I have been lost in my head.

It is so difficult to fully engage in every moment of every day but I feel like I let a lot of stuff pass with out enjoying or disliking it fully. I have made a decision to not watch TV this week and try to live a little more fully in the present. Missing Monday night football was tough but not that tough because I didn't really care about any of the teams, I was mathematically eliminated from my pick' em league, and it was the first day of my no TV watching week. The first day is a bit easier then say Wednesday when Lost comes on and everyone I know will be watching it and then discussing it all week. We will see how it goes, what I notice while trying to pay attention to the scenery of life. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Friday Night Live

Last night Kate and I decided to get a movie. We got dressed up in the silliest outfits we could muster and headed to the local Blockbuster to see what we can find. My outfit consisted of Snow pants, a sleeveless Softshare Catch the Wave shirt with a blue shirt underneath, a tweed jacket, a grey beenie, and tennis shoes. Kate had pink sweats, a pink long jacket with sparkley flowers on it, a cowboy hat, and sun glasses. Kate wins again.

We saw Fever Pitch, the Barrymore-Fallon movie about the Redsox and fanaticism. A quaint little romantic comedy that made me laugh out loud twice. Nothing award winning about it but it was a nice little flick.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Que Onda Guero?

Last night Kate and I went to a volunteer meeting for the “Day of the Dead” celebration in Fountain Square next Saturday Oct. 29. We are looking for ways to get involved in the community and to get to know more and more people around us and this event helps on both of those fronts. As the meeting went on we talked about what would happen with crafts and music, dancing and processions, and we all penciled our names in where we felt we could best help. Me for Set-up and Clean-up, Kate for Information and Crafts. I was also asked to be the English speaking MC for the event along side Alba the Spanish speaking MC. For some reason Beck immediately came to mind:

See the vegetable man
In the vegetable van
With a horn that's honking
Like a mariachi band
In the middle of the street
People gather around
Put the dollar-dollar-dollar in the can
Ay wey, que onda?
TJ cowboys hang around
Sleeping in the sidewalk
With a Burger King crown
Never wake 'em up
Mas cerveza
Til the rooster crows
Vatos vergallos
Que onda guero?

Well I agreed to do the MC’ing for some reason and the meeting ended a little later. Funny how you go to help clean up and you some how get a microphone. If only there was going to be a two turntables and a microphone then it really would be where its at.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

And so it begins

For the past week I have been working at 9 am instead of my regular 7am shift. A co-worker wanted to try the morning shift on like a pair of jeans to see if they made her butt look big. Apparently they did because here I am back on the early shift. I like this shift for the most part. I like the quite drive in my radio-less car. I like the cold mornings and hot coffee. I like the seeing it go from dark to light, few to many, empty to full. When I arrive at work I am one of 3 in a big office and the other two are there though I can’t see them. Soon there is another and a conversation starts back to the left. Soon the clickity clack of keys and words being made starts in the space next to me. Coughs and laughs, rings and beeps layer themselves on top of the steady bass line of the humming heater. The world is waking up and making itself busy and I get to be there to see it happen one small noise at a time.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Apparently I'm That Guy

Saturday night Kate and I went out with some friends to the Rathskeller off of Mass Ave. These are friends that live in the neighborhood and who are in part the reason we looked at Fountain Square to begin with. Well anyway we went out and we were chatting about ourselves over ginormous mugs of beers and I was talking way too much. I kept bringing the conversation back to me over and over again like some sort of conversation tramp. I don't know what came over me because I am not usually that guy, at least I hope I am not that guy. I really try to involve others in the conversation and to get them to feel comfortable and open up a bit most of the time but not Saturday night. I was actually so disappointed with myself that night that I had a hard time getting to sleep. I felt like a jerk, a tool, a pompous jack ass that needs to convince people how great he is by highjacking conversations and telling irrelevant stories. I don't want to be that guy, I don't like that guy, nobody likes that guy.

If you read this, sorry M & T, I'm not usually like that, or at least I don't want to be like that.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

True colors

Saturday evening I had a true litmus test for whom I identify myself most Indiana or California. Now if you are following along at home you know that I recently got my Indiana license and completely succumb to hoosierness. Well yesterday there was this little football game that gave me a clearer picture of where I stood on the issue. Notre Dame was playing USC in South Bend Indiana and this was the fourth game of theirs I had seen this year. I have loved the story of the pro genius coming back home to right the ship and have been pulling for the Irish all year. When I turned the game on late in the second half I was glad to see that they were up a touchdown over Running Back U and on there way to ending USC's 27 game winning streak and maybe their shot at an unprecedented 3 national title in row. Then the second half hit and as the score went back and forth. I found myself excited when USC finally got the lead with 5 minutes to go. I was nervous when Quinn lead the Irish down the field to retake the lead with 2 minutes to go. I was trying to cheer on the Trojans from Indianapolis even though I have never liked the Trojans. I wanted Southern California to beat Northern Indiana. I don't know if you saw the game or not but it might just be one of the greatest college football games ever played. Nobody deserved to lose yet someone had to. Usc showed why they were the National Champions and moved down the field to get to the one foot line with 7 seconds to go. A field goal ties the game and the coach is yelling for the team to get to the line to spike the ball as if they are going for the field goal. The quarter back hurries everyone to the line for the spike only he doesn't spike it. He tries to push his way into the endzone but gets stuffed. Not to be denied the quarterback twists and turns his 6-5 240 frame until he is laying face down in the end zone for the winning touchdown. USC pulls off a stunning comeback and I am yelling like the captain of the Varsity cheerleaders. Kate said I thought you wanted Notre Dame to win, I thought so too.

I give it a not-awful

For the first time in a good long time Kate and I ponied up the $945 to go see a movie, have some popcorn, and share a soda in a movie theatre. We were both feeling like getting out of the house without really feeling like doing anything that exciting. What better place to go then the Movies? We took out a small loan and headed to the cool theatre with the stadium seats and date chairs where you could cuddle. The movie we saw was Elizabethtown and I will give you some quick thoughts on this later but first let me tell you about the social dynamics of the crowd.

As we went in and found our seat there was about 15 other people seated already, all women. We watched as the theatre filled with teenage girls and twenty something girls, and mothers and daughters, and girls night out ladies with their friends. There seemed to be a trend developing but I couldn't quite put my finger on it yet. The previews started and it was one chick flick after another and I was thinking they have really miss judged their audience here. I mean this is a Cameron Crowe film, the same guy that brought us Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire. The man responsible for classics like Say Anything and Fast Times at Ridgemount High. This isn't a chick flick is it?

A little slow on the uptake the movie started with the incredibly good looking Orlando Bloom breaking out his worst American Accent he could muster. I thought he was doing some sort of parody first but it continued through out the movie. Why do people choose John Wayne as their proto-type for fake accents? It was way to distracting for me each time he talked and sine the movie was chiefly about him, and narrated by him I was in for a long night.

Some quick thoughts on the movie as a whole:

Alec Baldwin delivers. Think Baldwin characters in Along Came Polly and Outside Providence.

Orlando Blooms accent is truly bad, the movie is not awful but his accent tries it's hardest to make it so.

The movie at times seems like one big visual ploy for Crowe to put some of his favorite songs on a soundtrack. It seem that more and more Crowe movies are more about the music the film. He might be better off making mix tapes for the home shopping network and allowing us to spend our $945 on good music in stead of not-awful movies.

I want to take a road trip so bad it hurts. The idea of getting in a car and driving around this country with a full iPod and great map sometimes keeps me up at nights.

If your looking for a good movie stay away, if you want to hear some great songs and a movie that is not awful then go to a matinee, $473 is a much better price to pay for this.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mock Draft 1.0

We all know that I love basketball and that I am a huge dork. So to confirm both I have wasted a perfectly good morning at work coming up with a Mock Draft for the first 4 rounds of the Fantasy Basketball League I am in. Nothing at all sad about a pretend draft for a fake league, nothing at all. With that said here are the picks:

Round 1
Matt – In a tough decision between the Old school pick and the new hotness Matt goes with the new hotness and take Lebron James (GF)

Jesse – This is the easiest pick in the draft really, who ever Matt doesn’t take Jesse does so he Gets Kevin Garnet (PF) and hopes to end the streak of never winning with Garnet on your team.

Kyle – This was a no brainer Amare pick but with his latest knee unpleasantness Kyle is forced to think this over. For the last 3 years Shawn Marion (SF) has been the best performer in our league and Kyle being nothing if not a student of the game knows that and makes him the third pick.

Bing – Bing has a flair for the fanciful when it comes to drafts but I think this year he is going to play it a little closer to the vest and pick Dirk Nowitski (PF). Bing accomplishes two things with this pick, getting the best available player and getting a white guy. We all know Bing loves the White Guys.

Chuck – Every year Chuck surprises us with his picks but he seems to always be down towards the bottom so I think this year he will go with something a little more conventional, Tracy McGrady (GF).

Mark - To think that in the fifth spot you could get the best center in the league (now that Amare is hurt) is silly and Mark will be giddy as a school girl as he pulls the trigger on Tim Duncan (C) here.

Aaron – We have a new face in our league this year and with fresh blood comes unpredictability. I think Aaron is a name guy not a stat guy so he will pick Kobe Bryant (GF) with this pick and that is not a bad move. Could be the steal of the first round by the all star break.

James – I feel like gambling with my pick here and going for the gusto. Even though he has been hurt and is tired from playing in Europe all summer I am going to go with Andre Kirelenko (SF) with my first pick.

Barrie – Last and definitely not least, 3 top 2 finishes in the last 3 years, Baz will take the best PG here and that is Gilbert Arenas (PG). With Amare out Nash is hampered, Hughes is gone in Washington, as is Kwame, so the quick to shot Arenas will be even more quick and that will mean a lot of points.

Second Round – Reverse Order
Baz – Dwane Wade (G) best back court in the league now
JR- Steve Nash (PG) continuing the gamble
AD- Allen Iverson (SG) still with the names
Mark- Vince Carter (SG-SF) burned him last year but mark forgives and forgets
Chaz- Elton Brand (PF) Chuck loves Elton Brand, and who can blame him
Bing – Ray Allen (SG) Even though he is black he’s Bing’s kinda player
Kyle – Jason Kidd (PG) With Guards going like Crazy Kyle gets in on it.
Jesse – Paul Pierce (SF) Great pick gives Jesse his best start in years
Matt – Stephon Marbury (PG) Has help in New York, will help Matt move up

Round 3
Matt- Ben Wallace (FC) Matt reminds everyone that you need a good center to win
Jesse – Mike Biby (PG) The pasty one fits well on Jesse’s team
Kyle – Shaquile Oneal (C) Already disgusted with his draft Kyle starts complaining
Bing- Kyle Korver (SF) back to the Whities and another 3pt guy for the old man
Chaz- Rashard Lewis (SF) Fresh off a new contract and ready to play
Mark – Joe Johnson (PG) Somebody has to score in ATL why not Joe
AD- Yao Ming (C) Aaron is quietly having a great draft for a rookie
JR – Baron Davis (PG) I have no hope of winning know, I need a medic!
Baz – Peja Stojakvic (SG) First of two Sac Town boys for Baz

Round 4
Baz- Brad Miller (C) second of the Sac town boys and the best Center available
JR – Jermaine Oneal (PF) What can I say, I’m a Hoosier now
AD – Steve Francis (SG) move to SG could be huge or could be the end of the Franchise
Mark – Larry Hughes (SG) Mark loves Larry Hughes
Chaz – Richard Jefferson (SF) If he stays healthy he is a top 15 star, if he stays healthy
Bing – Zydrunus Illgauskus (C) Bing needs a center and Z needs to go to good team
Kyle – Ron Artest (SF) Kyle loves and hates Artest and is now crying about his team
Jesse – Chris Bosh (C) Taking a leadership role in Toronto, could be a break out year
Matt – Corey Maggette (SF) Matt loves Corey

So there as the first four rounds, at least that is how I see them right now. I know only Mark, Kyle, and I will care but that is OK, the moral of this story, as always, I am a dork.

Identification

I have done it, bit the bullet and bowed to the inevitable. On Friday Afternoon after two hours of sitting and waiting I took a short test, answered a couple of medical questions and posed for a truly bad picture before walking out of the Fountain Square BMV with my new Indiana Driver License. Who ever had one year, 8 days in the pool can come and accept their prize. It was oddly sad to turn in my California License and get this strange new card. I still think of my self as Californian even though I was not born there nor currently live there. Most of my friends and family have left or are talking about leaving yet it is still some how home to me.

California is where my parents stopped drinking, it is where my mom and I found forgiveness and friendship, it is where my brother and I honed competition and respect. California is where I met Jesse and Kyle, two guys who transcend mere friendship and have truly become family to me. It is the place that I learned I could succeed, and the place where I sought and met Jesus. California is the place where I met Kate.

Somehow getting a new license for me seemed like a period on the story that is California. It was my ID, my identification it was the tangible representation of who I was and who I am. This is me, 6 foot , 235 lbs, Blue Eyes, Brown hair, needs glasses, California! Now when you look at my license there is nothing there that speaks of that time, of that place. My ID now says Indiana, I am officially a Hoosier and that is OK. I mean it is Indiana where I married Kate, where I bought my first house and spent the first year of marriage. It is Indiana where I have experienced the devastating and the sublime. And it is here where my Lord has met me anew.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Happy Birthday Aunt Jamie!

For being wise enough to be born on the day that Kate and I would eventually be married I salute you. You are an amazing woman who will never know "Can't do it" but instead it is "hasn't yet tried". You inspire me to keep learning, reading, discovering, and laughing at the world, because that is how you live your life. I love you very much and I can't wait to see you this Christmas.

I believe the first is paper.....

A year ago today in the White River Gardens of Indianapolis I cried like a little girl.

I have been told a time or two that the first year of marriage is the toughest. You have a learning curve where you are no longer on the best behavior of courtship and really starting to see your mate for who they really are. The toilet seat stays up and the stinky socks aren't kicked under the bed anymore. Kate and I have had our share of tough times during the first year of marriage though they have not been between her and I, but rather external things that we have weathered together. The loss of a baby, months of unemployment, little money, and no friends have all conspired to test our bond and I think that the results have been strong to quite strong. Times will get tougher still, the honeymoon will eventually end, and we will have to weather new forces but we will meet them when they come. For right now, I am more in love with my beautiful then when I saw her through blurry tear soaked eyes a year ago today, and I wager I will be more in love with her still a year from today.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Equal Time


Here is me and my tiny dad. Isn't he cute up next to his ginormous son?

Harry Potter

A couple of weeks ago we were sitting around with some friends and the subject of the new Harry Potter book came up. I said that I wouldn't read any of the books because it is too popular and was told that was a stupid reason not to read them. As a consumer of sports and pop culture and their sometime tenuous connection to life itself I needed to read the books. So off I started by borrowing the first book from my friend and reading through it pretty quickly. The second and third book went fairly fast as well and by the end of the week I was starting the fourth book. I had seen the first three movies so the books were quick reads though they get longer and longer as they go on.

The fourth book was the first one in which I had no idea what was going to happen and the book where the whole story really takes a dramatic turn. I found myself locked into this now and genuinely concerned with Ron, Hermione, Harry, and the rest of the kids. The fifth book was a tough read at first because the kids were so moody and whiny, from what I hear from my mom a pretty accurate portrayal of teenagers. I have just finished the sixth book last night and now for the first time on this trip I have to wait like everyone else. Kate asked me if I was going to be one of those people at Borders at midnight to get my copy and I laughed and said "Please!" I'm not going to line up with all those people like an idiot, I'm gonna pre-order it and frantically check the mail box every ten minutes till it arrives. I mean I'm not freak. Have any of you read the Potter books?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My name is Earl


If you have not seen the new show on NBC on Tuesday nights you have to see it. For me watching Mark on TV each week has just been a treat. I am just wondering when he is going to get to me on his list.

As a side note look at the bridge of the nose on these two characters. Like Father like son ehh? This is my dad and my brother in SB last month, and a side shot of Beautiful for taste.

Write till you get it

Last night we had our first Home Group meeting for the New Deal Church gig that Kate and I are part of on Sunday nights. The group meets at the house of the super cool couple I have been talking about lately. I am no longer intimidated by them all but they are still super cool. We had a chat about Galatians 5 and what we want from this group and then watched Lost. All in all a great night after what has been a strange week for Kate and I.

I have found myself running out of patience fast with customers on the phone. I know this comes as a huge surprise to Jesse and any other Softshare OG but it’s true. As soon as a customer gets snotty with me I give it right back and then feel like a tool when I hang up the phone. I was pretty tired after the SB trip and was sick for the week after. I am still feeling a little remnant of that but don’t tell Kate cause she thinks I’m faking to get out of house work. I think I have just had some defenses knocked down lately and I am not as able to pretend I am a nice guy, but now that I see that I will get some contemplative quiet time and work through that.

Kate has been having a rough go at it at work lately. She works at job she dislikes strongly, for people she does not respect, and in an industry that has not interest to her. A real tri-fecta of fun Monday through Friday. She is coming home grumpy and depressed and even after I threaten to give her something to cry about it still takes her a while to snap out of it.

We are incredibly happy and having a great time of life right now so this is in no way a complaining thing. It is funny really how what stories you decide to tell can mean the difference between perceived happiness and depression. I think that a big part of my feelings lately was seeing family and friends a bit ago. I am reminded of how much I love them and in turn just how much I miss them. I think that is it right there, I build up a tolerance to missing them that is destroyed when we meet again and I am left feeling it fresh again. I really miss my family right now and the line between friends and family is one that I can never seem to draw because they are so much the same person.

Well this has helped me quite a bit. I couldn’t put my finger on what I was feeling until I started typing and read what came out. Sorry for the lack of updates lately had I known this was going to happen I would of written much earlier, until later then.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A whirl wind weekend

I am sitting at work near the end of a long day that caps off a longer weekend. Kate and I went to Santa Barbara to attend the wedding of Troy and Jen and in the process catch up with 20 to 30 of our closest friends. I now know that if I am ever feeling like I don't have many friends all I need to do is scrounge up some money for a plane ticket to SB and prepare for the onslaught of hugs.

The weekend Started with a 7 PM flight out of Indy that took us through Denver to LA where Mark and Bing were waiting for us. I knocked out the third Harry Potter on the way and arrived tired but happy. We drove up the coast to the Bowman's house and were in bed by 1:30 AM with talk of a 7 AM B-Ball game.

Luckily there was no early morning game and I woke up at 8 AM to chat with my mom and dad over coffee. A number of friends and family stopped by and we soon had a party going. We went to a Bar-b-que for Troy and Jen and met up with some friends from my previous job, though work friends does not do them justice. They are friends free of qualifiers, people who have left their mark on my life and have enriched my story more then they will ever know.

The B-Ball game that was meant to be at 7 now took place at 5 PM and even with my badly hurting back I had fun. It was the Lompoc crew plus a couple of others we had collected over the years. No one got hurt, no one fought, and we all had a great time, I guess we really are mellowing with age. B-Ball led to Pizza and then to sitting around telling stories sipping tea.

Sunday we lounged around the Bowman's house until it was time for the wedding. I got to read a little poem and was practicing through out the day so I didn't sound like a tool up there trying to pronounce "Propinquity". At the Wedding and the reception afterwards I got to hug and talk to so many old friends that by the time we got home on Monday morning I had lost my voice completely. We left the wedding at 8 PM and left LAX at 12 AM to arrive back in the Circle City at 6 AM.

It was less then 48 hours but it had the effect of 3 weeks on my soul. Thank you all so much for making me feel so loved.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Slogans

A friend of ours in Fountain square was coming up with slogans for the neighborhood with another guy and here is my favorite so far:

Fountain Square, looks like Squirrel, tastes like chicken!

Around the corner from our house there are two fried chicken joints, two funeral homes, and place with a sign outside that say Cigarettes and Nascar Inside

I love my neighborhood!

OPA!

So to celebrate the tests Kate and I went to the Greek joint around the corner on Tuesday night. This was not the first choice, or the second for that matter.

We were feeling a bit poor but we still wanted to mark the occasion so we set out for Decadent by Design for their tasty crab cakes. As we were walking over there there was a German polka duo outside of Deano's Vino and 40 something crowd in lawn chairs enjoying the warm night. We headed around the corner but found that DbD was closed at 2:30 PM on Tuesday. They actually don't start dinner service until Wednesday nights. Odd but ok.

We headed back past the omph omph omph of the portly German gentlemen on the stage to make our way to the Shelbi Street Cafe and maybe enjoy some dinner on the roof. Not open for dinner on Tuesday nights either. That is crazy talk, why aren't they open on Tuesday nights?

Our options dwindling fast we were forced to decide between Peppy's ( a hole in the wall 24 hour joint that served the best sober-you-up food in town) or one of the two fast food chicken shops. We remembered the Greek restaurant and headed East on Prospect to see if they were open. On the way we ran into some friends shopping at Value Village. Both their daughters were crying so we knew they were pinching them again and made our way out of there quickly. The Greek place was open and we went in and had some tasty things that I can't remember the name of now. It was a scene to behold and the food was great and we walked there. I love my neighborhood and the fact that I have neighbors that I get to chat with when I walk to get Greek food on a Tuesday night.

One Smart Cookie

Yesterday Kate finished the last of three tests for certification in the crazy world of Insurance and Investing. She is now licensed to talk to you about investment options and she is not afraid to do so. Well maybe she is, but she fakes it really well.

Now I know I am somewhat biased in that I think Kate is the most wonderful, smart, beautiful, and funny person in the world but even so you gotta appreciate how cool this is. Kate is an English major not a finance Major. I mean those worlds couldn't be farther apart and yet she read and retained complicated compliance codes and now knows the difference between a 401k and a 403b. I am continually amazed at what that girl can do.

Well done Beautiful!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Come on, all the cool kids are doing it

They did not accept interpretive dance in the MIAD event this year so I was unable to participate. Instead I unpacked more of our stuff and moved rugs and furniture from one room to the next as Kate's whim lead. We now have 5 out of the 8 rooms all but done with the Library, Kitchen, and bathroom still waiting on major projects. I know a lot of you want to come out and be a part of this historic process and I want to encourage that strongly. Don't wait until it is all down and miss out on the sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with being a part of a project bigger then your selves. October is the best month for plan tickets and it is lovely in Indy as well. Leaves changing, Aunts getting older, anniversaries celebrated all in warm afternoons and mild evening of the circle city. Don't be left out, book you trips now!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

New Friends, same insecurities

So Kate and I have been getting out and about more now that we are for sure staying in Indianapolis and so far we have met wonderful people. There is this couple, John and Tonya, that we hung out with on Tuesday that we both like quite a bit, though I must say I am fighting an intimidation complex that I always seem get. See they are smart and artistic, witty and well read and they both write and make cool things and so I compare and contrast. The thing is, they are super nice and would be horrified to know that I am at all intimidated by them. I am getting better and better each time we hang out.

I guess I thought it would be easier for me to make friends as I got older but part of me is still that little boy trying to laugh along with all the other kids making fun of me on the playground. We are in such an artistic and expressive community here that I love but I feel like I snuck in the side door and any minute some heavy set German woman in a tight uniform is going to ask me for my papers. I must get over this I know, and I am working on it. Until then I will keep my head low and make semi interesting comments about the use of space and then run away when someone turns to look at what I am talking about.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Creationism

This weekend in fountain Square we are having Masterpiece in a Day. The gist is that you have one day to create something be it painting, poetry, song, or what ever. You have to do it in the time permitted and you can't leave Fountain Square. I was thinking about what I would do to be a part of this and I keep coming up blank.

A song is a bad idea because there would come a point when I would actually have to sing it and we all know that isn't gonna work. Also, you get paired with another person for a duet and I don't know that my art translates well with other people. So horrible voice and inablity to share precludes the song.

Painting? Well I might be able to pull of a Jackson Pollock rip off with all the excess paint we have at our house. Kate hasn't quite got the judging paint thing down when planning the room colors at Lowes. The trouble with painting is that I would then need to explain it and I don't know if I could verbally express what these seeming random splashes of paint mean to the philistines in the audience. I'm not going to cheapen my art by catering to the mass consumption, fast food society that demands a sign and the correct change! (well that and I can't paint)

Writing, now there is something that I enjoy doing. What would I write about though. My sister in law just finished a book that she has been writing on the side and having read a note or two of hers I feel vastly under-qualified to write. Kate recently wrote a piece in response to our Pastor's request for her to tell her story at church and when she was up there reading it I fell in love with her all over again. She has such a way of weaving words in and out of each other that when she is finished you are warmed by the blanket they wrapped around you. I can't write something because I would be thinking of Heather and Kate and be paralyzed with awe.

I can't take pictures like Mark and I don't have any where to develop them in Fountain Square so that is right out.

Really interpretive dance is all that is left for me to do. I will dance a piece that I create on Saturday. It will be a spontaneous expression of the day and creative air will fill my lungs and quicken my step. The dance will not be about winning the money but about living the day. Ah yes I will dance cause Kate always says that it is about the dance.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

You got Peanut butter no jelly

I was at the Marsh that Kevin Mitchell manages over on 116th and I noticed something strange on my way out. You can drop your dry cleaning off there. What? When did this start. It seems you can go into Marsh and take care of all of your errands in one fell swoop. What is the deal with this cross over business. I don't want to skip over Andy Rooney and go straight to a Dennis Miller but it's getting out of hand.

I went into Starbucks the other day to pick up the new Alanis Morsette CD (yeah right) when I noticed that they were doing something with coffee behind the counter there. Who knew? Next thing you know they are gonna have one of those on every corner.

Now I'm all for things that make sense but groceries and starched shirts don't make sense. Coffee and CD don't make sense, Chicken and Waffles now that makes sense! But as my uncle Beaver say "opinions are like @$$holes, everyone's got one but that doesn't mean we need to hear about it"

Bet you wished you had an uncle Beaver too.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Sleep while you can monkey boy for tomorrow you die!

Now that we are done with the floors there is a real lull in motivation for home renovation for me. Kate on the other hand has kicked into a new gear. She has said that she doesn't expect me to help for a while, knowing that I am a little worn out, but I'm waiting for that moment when she is painting some room and gets mad that I am reading about gamblers and God. (By the way "One of a Kind : The Rise and Fall of Stuey "The Kid" Ungar, The World's Greatest Poker Player" is a great book about an amazing and jacked up man)

Kate has purchased paint for two rooms and is looking for rugs to cover the floors. Now why would we go through all that freaking work to restore the floors only to cover them with rugs? It don't make no kinda sense a'tall! She is planning on widening the walk in the back yard, pouring concrete for space between the street and the garage and painting half the house. She is a whirl wind of activity and fear my break will be short lived.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Koran For Dummies

At work we have a number of books, a large number as a matter of fact and I have off to read some of those books while waiting for the phone to ring. For the past couple of weeks the phone has been quiet and I have done a lot of reading but this week we are in the midst of busy season and the phone does not stop ringing from 7 AM when I arrive to 5 PM when I leave. One of the books I have been reading though was the Koran for Dummies. This has been an interesting read for me as a Christian. Here is are a couple of observations that I had while reading:

* Muslims, Jews, and Christians all believe in the same God. I knew this but some how it was striking to me while reading it. We all trace our past back to Adam and Moses and Abraham. We all love David, but for different reasons, and we all have a basic code of conduct that has been passed down. We are like a family that has had a fight somewhere in the past and we starting branching away as we all choose sides. The farther we go back the closer we are and sadly the farther we move ahead the farther we are going to be apart.

* The Koran does not recognize the failings of the major characters in the story. David never slept with Bathsheba, Lot never pimped his daughters, Moses never killed a guy, and so on. The prophets and messengers were free of any major sin according to the Koran. One of the things that I relate so much with in Christianity is God's use of normal, broken people to do extraordinary things. It was never about man's strength but rather God's strength through man and I can see that is not about me measuring up to this crazy standard but rather God's love for me where ever I am at.

* The story in the Koran is not chronological or even really concerned with historically accuracy. It is about the story and moral of the story, not about the details. I love this bit. Kate is always correcting me about the details of a story when I tell it. There is this Ayat (Verse or verses) in the Koran that make fun of these teachers who are debating about how many people were in this cave hiding. The important part is not how many, but that they were hiding in the cave. As one who likes to tell stories I liked this part quite a bit.

* The Koran has been wildly mis-interpreted by the fundamentalist wackos that are using it to defend their actions but it is easy to see why they would use the Ayat that they do to defend their actions. I had a teacher that used to say of the Pharasies in Jesus time that they were "sincere people who thought they right. They were sincere, but sincerely wrong" I think that applies to the above group as well.

I enjoyed reading this book and I know that it is in no way a comprehensive look at the Koran. It is a book for Dummies and that is what I am. I found that I enjoyed it much more when I wasn't looking for ways to disagree but rather finding the similarities.

Has anyone read any good books lately?

Guess who's back, back again...

Back home, back to the floors and odd smelling house, back to work, back to long busy days with slow commutes, back to lawns that need mowing and neighbors that need chatting. Kate and I are back after what turned out to be a great vacation. I got to see New york City and ride the Subway. I got to go to the Jersey Shore and ride the roller coaster on the pier. I got to see where Kate grew up and meet the people that still call her Little Katie. I also got a healthy dose of in-laws and in-fighting.

My parents in-law are great. They took care of us from the beginning of the trip by letting us use their car, through week in Jersey by feeding and housing us, through the end. I have come to the point where they are not in-laws but friends that I genuinely enjoy hanging out with. Tom and I golfed on Thursday and Kris and I tanned on Wednesday. The fighting was not with the parents, it was with the kids. I would love to tell you about it but I won't. Suffice to say I am glad to be home where work, home life, and any other problems make sense to me and I can reason how to work them out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Fresh off the boat

They Come into America, today


Sunday morning we went to church in the grade school gym and it brought back memories of the rec center in Lompton. After the service I got a tour of all of Kate's old classes and some of her old friends. A number of people came up to say hi to a girl who hadn't much changes in 14 years. She was still little Katie McGrail to all those at church and it was mentioned to me once or twice "So your the guy that married little Katie McGrail" It was more of an accusation then a question as you could see that Katie was well loved in these parts.

After Church we headed out to Liberty Park to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. As we pulled into the park and I could see the statue for the the first time a wave emotion came over me. I'm not sure why but the whole time there was deeply moving and significant to me. We were too late to see both islands so we decided on Ellis Island, got an Italian Ice and waited for ferry. There were so many nationalities and languages represented on our ferry that one would think Ellis Island was still open and operating. We toured the building and the grounds, found Kate's great-great grandfather's name and one Rohl, Alfred F. Rohl, that we aren't sure is related. We were right across the Hudson from the greatest city in the world but we weren't going to be making that trip today. We stayed on the Island until they kicked us off and then made are way back to Sparta on some back roads.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Travelers in the mist


Friday afternoon at about 4:30 we set off for a weeks vacation on the east coast. Em and Logan are getting married in Cape May New Jersey next weekend so Kate and I thought we should make a trip out of it. We had a loaded Rav4 courtesy of Kris, a full tank of gas courtesy of Tom, and no CDs to make the trip courtesy of the Franciscan monks that were trying to teach simplicity in our neighborhood. We entertained our selves by quiz questions. Kate asked me State capitols, as is tradition in her family on long trips. I did very badly, as is tradition in my family all the time. I then quizzed Kate on major interstates and which ones you would take to get from point A to point B. She did incredibly well. Friday night we drove up into Pennsylvania and stopped at a cheap hotel for the night. While laying in bed I quizzed Kate one more time. This time I gave her a City and a sport and asked her for the mascot. Something like Chicago and Baseball and she would say " Cubs and Whitesox" She did amazingly well! Outstanding when you think about it. I was so proud of her each time she would pull the team out of the air. Capitals and interstates is one thing but knowing your sports teams just might be the single greatest skill a young woman can have these days.

The next morning we got an early start and drove through the morning fog and piercing sun as it peaked in and out of the mist. Our first stop is Sparta, NJ and Kate has spent most of the morning telling me all about her time growing up there. When we arrived at around noon I got a tour of her old house, all of her neighbors houses, including Parker Seifert whom she was madly in love with, and all the hot spots around town. We had diner with the Schubert family and I got a chance to watch a Mets game with a Mets fan and a Yankees fan. There is comedy, there is high comedy, and then there is a Mets and Yankees fan trying to get along during a baseball game.. We have had a good time so far and we are only one day into the vacation, tomorrow is Ellis Island, and Monday the City, I can't wait.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The one about the floors










As you must know by now my project for the last month has been turning the floors in our house from wall to wall carpet to wall to wall wood. You have read about the process no here it is in pictures Carpet to linoleum to tar to wood. Poplar to be specific, there is a green hue to it. The floors haven't been finished yet but what a change huh?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sometimes she's too cute

Around 5 AM this morning I woke up just before falling out of bed. I had napped on and off from 6:30 to 10:30 last night before going to bed for good so I felt pretty good at 5. When I tried to get back in bed I found what, or who as it were, kicked me out to begin with. Kate normally takes her half of the bed out of the middle but at this point she way over on my side. When I tried to physically push her over she let out a drawn out whine/moan but didn't budge. I then asked her to move over so I could get back in bed and she whine/moaned again. When I asked her again she said "ooooohhh kaaaayy" and moved over. I asked what she was doing and she said "I'm just sleeping" in this little girl, too cute for words voice that made me crack up laughing. When I talked to her about it a little later after she got up to make me coffee at 6:15 she didn't remember it at all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

By the way have you seen my brother lately


I was pulling into Corner Coffee last week when I should have been at home getting dinner ready and I was really missing my family. I was going to check the email drop a post or two and then get on my way when I saw that Mark was online. We got on Hello and sent some pics back and forth including this one with The Jackson and his wife Melissa. Good lord he's looking good. The stripes are slimming I'm sure but that only counter acts the 20 that the camera adds. When all the math is done we are still looking at one good lookin young man. Well done young lad, you almost look like you fit in with a wife that hot, almost.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I missed Fiesta in Santa Barbara this weekend and this is how I feel about it.

iTune Musings

I spent most of this weekend hunched over a sander with headphones I stole from Mark connected to the iPod that I stole from my mom thinking about music. I was trying to decide what playlist would best help me forget about my aching back. I had a couple of thoughts during that time, here they are in no particular order:

* Tar comes up much easier when any song from Beck's album Guero comes on. It was erie how much of a difference Missing or Girl had on the floor. While anything by Bright Eyes made the process slow going.

*A worship tune seemed to always come up when I was changing the paper. As if it was time for quiet contemplation, or as quiet as headphones turned up to eleven will allow, while pulling the scalding hot, tar covered paper off and scratching my fingers trying to tighten the fresh one down.

*I really enjoyed listening to the top rated playlist, as one would expect since I rated the songs, but it felt a little predetermined. Part of the beauty of the iPod is playing all your tunes on shuffle and getting that cheesy song you downloaded for the wedding. I contemplated pre-destination vs. Free will as it related to Playlists and the entire library in iTunes for much of Sunday afternoon.

*There are some songs in the top rated that were no brainers like Jesus Etc. or Last Goodbye but then there were others that surprised me. White houses by Vanessa Carlton? Where did that come from? Just a little bit by 50 was a nice change from the pop rock as well. Does anyone else have Son of a sailor in the their top rated?

*Is it wrong that I think Joss Stone's Fell in love with a boy is better then The White Stripes original? I need a ruling on this.


Jamie please tell this story! Posted by Picasa

After years of use the boards are still green

At 6:01 am Saturday morning we rolled out of bed and into the mini-van to pick up a belt sander and edger from Tony at Home Depot. We had grand plans to sand six rooms, four with thick black tar, down to the original wood. With an array of sand paper grits and tools we got started, paper to floor, at 7:30.

Kate went to work from 1-6 at the Banana and I had a two hour break as well during that time, but other then that I worked straight through to 11:30 pm. Kate, having gone to bed earlier the night before, got up at 7 and made pancakes and then got started on the floors at 8:30 while I slept in till 10:30. We worked until 10 that night when my body shut down. After over 25 hours of work hunched over an edger and pushing the sander we had finished 3 rooms, got a good start on two others, and left the other one for another day.

Kate and I laid in bed Sunday night, unable to sleep despite the intense physical exhaustion and giggled at how naive we are. It was hard to see how much work we did because we thought we would get it finished and we didn't. The disappointment was stronger Monday morning as sore muscles made even small walks tough. We also woke to find that someone had broken into our car and stolen the radio and the good batch of CDs. By Monday evening we had taken stock of the tremendous job we had done during the weekend and made plans to finish this coming weekend. We made a good run at it and the sanded floors looked amazing. The wood is poplar and has a green hue to it in parts. We are debating staining it or just covering it with a clear coat, but either way the whole feel of the house changed in one weekend. Like Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier it was those floors meeting our sweat that made that house truly ours.

Friday, August 05, 2005

B-Ball in the hood

I have had the opportunity to play some ball with the neighborhood kids the last couple of days. A gaggle of 12 year olds playing in the front lawn of the house across the street was too tempting a sight for me to let it go. I dropped the shudder I was meant to be hanging and made my way over to the familiar mix of trash talking and rhythmic ball bouncing. The basket is on the sidewalk step leading up to the house and is about 8 feet from the fence that borders the yard. The street is worth 3, everything else is 2 and its make-it take-it. We split up into teams of 4 and played to 21. It was a frenetic scene on the half grass-half concrete court and I soon found that my team was the left overs and rejects, just my kind of kids.

There is one kid that is noticeably better then everyone else and it is his house that we are playing at. With ball in hand, outside the fence, 10 feet from the basket this kid dares me to shoot. I smile at him and tell him he doesn't want me to shoot as a jab step and pull back for what amounts to a free throw, nothing but net. I get the ball back and he says "bet you can't do that again" "How much money you got son?" I say as I nail another jumper. My team of rejects are hooting and hollering as they are beating the good kids for the first time ever.

I passed the ball around and tried to get all my little team mates to shot, but they made no baskets. We ended up losing after all Good kids 22 - Rejects 19. I scored 19 points for my team but couldn't even get a tip in from one of the other cats. Kate and I had to go study and the rest of the kids had to head home so we made plans for more games this weekend and spread out in the humid dusk air.

Man I love this game.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

My news

With no TV in our house for the first three weeks and no internet access as well I was suffering from a peculiar news issue. All of my news comes from Clare Baldersen from the BBC care of WFYI Indy's NPR affiliate. I was all caught up on the London bombings but not really sure what was going on state side. It is interesting how your conversations are tailored by where you get your news.

Last Saturday night I walked over to the Diner to capitalize on their wireless connection and I ran into Matt, Tina, Nora, and Josie. I was telling Matt about my BBC problems and he told me not to worry. Tom and Katie were still together. I laughed but felt a little bummed that I knew exactly who he was talking about. You can take the boy out of the trailer but you can't take the trailer out of the boy!

Coming Storm

With all the floors cleared of linoleum Kate and I prepare for a weekend of sanders and dust. My apprehension is palpable enough for others to notice and re-assure me. Thank you Allen, Ron, and Jerry, your soothing words have helped.

Speaking of words, anyone who comes in our house has advice on how we should do things. From friends, family, and neighbors we have been told to knock out this wall or that, paint one room this color or another a different. We have been given advice on how to do the floors, how not to do them. Some have given us rough sketches on scratch paper of the best way to lay out the Bedroom-bathroom-laundry area. Kate and I smile and nod. We listen and engage and are always appreciative. Kate's cousin Adam said on the way to HomeDepot that we take unsolicited advice very well.

Here is the thing: We love hearing it. When people walk in our house and their minds start racing about what can be done we know that they get it. They can see the beauty of what is and what could be and their creative juices start flowing. It is fun for me to sit back and see that look in the eyes of the advisors as they plot and plan how to do this or that. Keep the advice coming, because your advice tells me that you too have fallen under the spell of 1230 Woodlawn Ave.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

1:31 and all's well

There hasn't been any updating lately because not much has changed at the house. During the hottest of days this week I scrapped up most of the linoleum in the dining room and now we have decided that we want to do all the floors on the first floor at once. That means I have one more room to scrape.

I talked to Doug about getting the tar paper off of the floors and as Jamie has mentioned he had the same issue. A edge sander and some 36 grit paper ought to do the trick Doug says so I will give that a shot this weekend. Knowing that sanding is where I can do the most damage on the floor Doug told me not to worry about it. Just keep the sander moving and you will be ok, "It's just wood, it can't out think you." Wise words from a wise man.

It is amazing to me how easy professionals can make a job sound. I worry about it for a while and then talk to Mark, Doug, Bing, or Chuck and they make things sound so easy. It is never as easy as they think it is but it's not nearly as hard as I think it will be.

Once we finish the floors I think I will feel much less transitional. There are boxes all around and most rooms are decorated in the Bob Villa motif: Tools piled up in the corner and boxes of trash! Once we finish the floors we can set up the rooms like a home instead of the job site that we live at now. I will take pictures of the up stairs tonight and get those loaded up tomorrow morning, anything else you want to see? Let me know and I will make it happen.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Hi My name is James and I'm an.........

It is Friday night and I am one of many sitting at Corner Coffee enjoying the vocal stylings of a velvet voiced older lady trying to find that right mix between her Taylor acoustic and the simple sound system projecting her voice. I am off in a corner with my laptop as a barrier between me and the rest of the world trying in vain to connect with people in some far off place. For some reason the irony of that escapes me for a couple of hours as I catch up on my favorite writers and exchange pictures with my favorite brother in between hands of 7 card stud at partypoker.com. As the guitar gets passed and I pull a monster pot with jacks full of sixes I look up to see my little corner is now smack dab in the middle of what can only be described as an eclectic group. There are dreads and buzz cuts, shorts and slacks and I immediately think AA. Close, I was now right in the middle of a NA post meeting chat session and I decided to put down the computer and participate in the life in-front of me instead search in vain on a lifeless machine. Alison shared about seeing an old boyfriend who was still using and how she saw him in such a completely different light now, but was still drawn to him. She was worried about the power he had over her, how his smile rendered her defenseless even though that smile was the exception rather then the rule when they were together. Tim talked about hitting a milestone of 6 months sober and how his mom still won’t believe in him. He says he can’t blame her really but he can’t wait to look in her eyes and not see fear. I listened and nodded attentively in all the right parts. I congratulated Tim and smiled at Alison while thinking of the scene in Waking Life about the Holy Moment. The group broke up as early morning jobs and late night chats pulled person after person away. “Same time next week?” some one asked and Curt, who seems to be the unofficial leader of the group, replied “Same bat time..” and a couple other folks finished his sentence. It was the best time I have had chatting with anyone not named Kate since I have been here. If Kate works again next Friday night I might just come back to hear how everyone is doing.

Friday, July 22, 2005


Random picture from an old post. Here is my brother-in-laws kegarator from my Christmas post. What a thing of beauty that is Posted by Picasa


Kate wants to buy this and put it in the kitchen for storage. Posted by Picasa

Marion County is under a tornado Warning

These are the words I was greeted with while sitting on my porch reading a less then riveting book on Computer Certification . The wind had picked up and the rain was coming down but it felt nice. A song by the Judd's was going through my head from road trips between California and Oregon as a kid. Kate came out of the air conditioned room to sit on the porch and read as well. The thunder and lightning was picking up and Ron came out to tell us there was a warning and we should get inside. Earthquakes, mudslides, flash floods, these are the things I am familiar with, not tornadoes. I sat in front of the window watching the sky fill with lightning flashes and listening to the thunder roll and shake the house. Apparently sitting in front of the window is the second dumbest place to be in a tornado though it did afford me a view of the actual dumbest place to be as I watched two kids pedal by on their bikes. Kate and I wallowed in our stupidity and watched the sky as we talked about nothing and everything all at once in a way that only those closest to you can. After an hour or so we sleepily made our way to bed and fell asleep to the soothing sounds of storms. All and all not a bad night.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

New Job

In all of this house happiness you might have missed that I have a new job as well. The job has come in handy paying for all the trips to Home Depot lately. I wanted to take a little opportunity to tell you what I do.

I am still a tech support monkey answering phone calls, emails, and live chat requests for a company called Wiley Publishing. Wiley are known for their Technical, Educational, and Business books with a number of subsidiaries. The Dummies Books, CliffsNotes, Programming for Programmers, and Frommers Travel guides are some of the more well known branches of Wiley. My job is to answer questions that people have on those or any other title, software, supplement, or companion site that Wiley produces.

Yesterday I got a call from a guy who was looking at the Owner’s Guide to Short Haired Spaniels and swore that his missing dog was pictured in the book. Unfortunately he was calling from a pay phone and we could not call him back. The day before, I took a call from an elderly lady who moved to Denver and now her recipes don’t taste the same, we publish the Betty Crocker Cook Book as well, turns out she was not adjusting the recipes for the altitude. Today I walked a father through the CliffsNotes Pre-Algebra Study Guide so he could help his son with the problems. We went over how to solve problems like 4² x 2 + 12 / 2. Squared first, then Multiplication and Division, then Subtraction or Addition. Mr. Heidaman would have been so proud of me on that call!

I inhabit a single wide cubicle while all my other co-workers have a double wide. I have my array of pictures up (a wedding picture, the one of my family in Big Bear, Kyle and Aaron, and Cecilia sitting on my lap) and the old wooden kangaroo wearing a sign that says James around his neck. I have a shelf full of books including a couple accounting text books; Dummies books for Windows XP, Mexican Cooking, Mutual Funds, C++, Photoshop, and iPod; and Frommer’s Guides to Paris, Amsterdam, and Isreal.

I don’t talk to co-workers much at work. They are nice enough people but because I am off in a corner they don’t come to see me much and I am usually lost in a book or three and content to field calls between chapters. There isn’t a Jesse, James, Troy, or Ben equivalent here. No one I can talk to about sports, music, silly noises, or obscure data collected in our secret databases. I am enjoying the job so far and I know I will get to know people here more and more and find out what things we have to talk about. Until then I will hide away in my single wide and read up on anything and everything.

Great Line from a book I am reading:

“And so it was that, about a week later, we crossed a strip of warm, black tarmac and I brought Hassan’s son from Afganistan to America, lifting him from the certainty or turmoil and dropping him in a turmoil of uncertainty.”

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Thoughts about nothing in particular

Saturday night and I find myself at my home away from home: Corner Coffee. With out an internet connection at home I stop in here in the morning before heading to work to check up on things. A quick look at the fantasy baseball team is followed by an update on the house. Then I move to a skim reading of my favorite writers: Simmons, Barcelona, Savage, and others and then finish up with a look at the Tour de France.

I am amazed at how dominate Lance Armstrong is at what he does. I am not a cycling fan and not jumping on any band wagon now but I appreciate a good sports story and Lance provides that. Take today as an example. Contrary to popular belief cycling is very much a team sport. Lance could not win the race with out a huge effort from his Discovery Channel team and they have been doing fairly well for him. But today about 5 Km before a wicked 9 mile climb into the mountains another team took off on a sprint. The goal was to separate Lance from his team and take him on one on one. The goal was accomplished as the discovery team fell off and Lance stayed with the attacking group. The problem was Lance continued to charge up the hill while these gamblers started to drop off one by one. By the end Lance ended up separating himself from his closest rivals even more. It is just phenomenal how he answers the challenge and then makes you feel like a fool for challenging him. These riders have to do it though or they have no chance of winning. Barring a crash or injury though they really do have no chance of winning.

For our book club we are reading this beautiful book called The Kite Runner. I would recommend it so far though I am only 1/3 of the way done.

I have to go pick up Kate now so I better end this. More house pics to come, including but not limited to:

The bedrooms
The Attic
The basement
The Gnome family across the street
The best looking house in the neighborhood
and Kate trying to change a light bulb!